In Chile, the implementation of smart grids has been slow, limited to a few isolated pilot projects with narrow coverage. As yet, there are no plans for full-scale development of this latest industry initiative. Against this backdrop, in May 2009, TECNET S.A., a utility of Grupo CGE, the owners of several Chilean utilities supplying some 2 million customers from Arica to Villarrica, decided to investigate this type of technology.

TECNET’s long-term objective was to determine the application of smart grids to assess the value and benefits of this technology for extended application throughout all the utilities in Grupo CGE.

Scheme of the residential AMR.

Selection of Equipment

During the pre-tender investigation phase of a pilot project focused on its long-term objective, TECNET established the minimum specifications to be fulfilled by the meters and systems required for the project:

  • Documentary evidence that the proposed system was already installed and operating successfully in other utilities around the world
  • Ease of installation, operation and maintenance
  • Capability of measuring energy bidirectionally and have internal registers for load profiles
  • Integrated communication capabilities for remote reading and control
  • Facilities to disconnect and reconnect the customer’s energy supply
  • Capability to control customer demand
  • Multiple-tariff capabilities
  • Alarms for events related to supply quality and meter tampering
  • Internal meter consumption that does not exceed that of traditional meters (electromechanical)
  • Legacy capacity for adding ZigBee, Z-Wave or similar communications
  • Ability for supplier to deliver the protocol or software drivers to communicate with the meters
  • Reliable, proven and state-of-the-art communications system
  • Meet Chilean regulations for commercialization.

TECNET received international interest from 10 companies; investigation of the equipment and systems from these companies took almost two years. Five of the solutions offered were found to fulfill the technical requirements, so economical quotes were requested with the purpose of incorporating the commercial and financial variables into the study.

In March 2011, the technology-based decision-making process was completed, and the utility announced Kamstrup, a Danish company that was not established in Chile, as the solution provider for the initial pilot project.

Pilot Project

In June 2011, CGE Distribución, one of the Grupo utilities, agreed to participate in the pilot project to read remotely the electricity consumption data from 83 houses because of the complexity of traditional reading. The meters were positioned so that they could not be read if the house owner was not present, a situation that was quite common. This caused customer billing problems and increased customer claims, therefore, it was necessary to find a solution before facing allegations from the regulatory authority.

Kamstrup smart meters

On Sept. 10, 2011, the installation of the first 83 meters using Kamstrup’s automatic meter reading (AMR) solution was started at the Villa Miguel de Cervantes in Buin city, which is supplied by CGE Distribución San Bernardo.

Smart meter installation at Villa Miguel de Cervantes

A crew installs a concentrator on a concrete pole.